ORLANDO, Fla. (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) say the agency didn’t handle housing vouchers for displaced residents of Puerto Rico any differently from those of displaced Texas and Florida residents after last year’s hurricanes.
The federal disaster agency says in court papers filed Friday that it’s not fair to compare the three responses to the hurricanes because the governors of the two states and territory made different requests for assistance from FEMA. The evacuees say in a court filing that FEMA isn’t doing enough for them, in contrast to how it treated mainland residents.
FEMA is fighting a lawsuit brought by Puerto Rican evacuees who are asking a judge to extend vouchers allowing them to live in hotels until they find permanent housing. The vouchers expire at the end of August.
Earlier this month officials in Puerto Rico said in a report to Congress that there were 1,427 more deaths “than normal” in the wake of Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Irma, but that the deaths in the four months after the storms “may or may not be attributable to the hurricanes.”
The death toll from Hurricane Maria has long been scrutinized and debated. Earlier this month,Earlier this year, another study said the hurricane was likely responsible for more than 4,600 deaths.
While the exact number of deaths is still being debated, there is agreement that most of the deaths took place not during Hurricane Maria, but after it, when emergency services were stretched and power outages and road blockages made it hard to get around the island.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)